Buddhist monks force Sri Lanka president to roll back reforms

Faced with mounting opposition from majoritarian Sinhala Buddhist monks and his own party, the president of Sri Lanka has backed off from adopting constitutional reforms that includes sharing power with Tamils.

Meeting President Maithripala Sirisena on Thursday (6), topmost Buddhist monks forced him to pledge that not even an "initial draft" would be drawn without the explicit approval of Buddhist hierarchy.

"I assured the Maha Sangha (great monks) that even an initial draft will not be drawn without consulting them,"
the president announced in Sinhala.

"They will be informed if an initial draft on new constitution is formulated. It's a transparent process," he further said on Twitter.

President warned

Following the meeting, leading monk Anamaduwe Dhammadassi revealed that they warned the president against granting concessions  to the Tamils through a constitution reform.

"We told the president that there will be no backing for any new or amended constitution, if it changes the nature of the unitary state, deny the foremost position given to Buddhism, devolve police and land rights to provincial councils and establish a second chamber that guarantee more minority representation," Dhammadassi Thero told journalists in Kandy.

Weakening Buddhist authority

He further emphasised that adding a provision which safeguards the fundamental rights of other religious groups would weaken the authority of Buddhists in the country.

President Sirisena had promised to direct the committee on constitutional reforms to seek input from the Buddhist leadership before drafting a bill.

The constitution reform process was launched earlier this year by Islandwide public consultations.

The Public Representations Committee (PRC) led by Lal Wijenayake handed over its recommendations in a 309 page report to the prime minister in May 2016.

Ousted President Mahinda Rajapaksa who is a leader of Sirisena's Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) has strongly opposed any reforms that would guarantee more autonomy to Tamils.

© JDS

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